Troy Kirkwood, loving son and devoted single father, disappears without a trace.
Nola, Troy’s mother, is baffled by—and Roy, his father, infuriated at—Detective Lopez’s suggestion that his son abandoned his child Meika, age five, at a Brooklyn Heights movie theater before he vanished. Troy would never do something like that, and Roy thinks he was somehow lured outside. The theater manager confirms this theory: Troy went out to check on his car alarm. But his car disappeared too, and there are no witnesses. Nola does her best to comfort little Meika and to keep Meika’s mother, Cordelia, a recovering crack addict, at bay. When Troy’s body is found, shot in the chest and head, the Kirkwood family nearly falls apart. Cordelia shows up in Family Court, demurely dressed in suit and pearls, and pleads her case to a judge who seems inclined to rule in her favor, even though it’s clear to everyone else that she’s lying. Nola doesn’t know what to do next—the thought of losing her beloved granddaughter to a no-account ex-junkie like Cordelia terrifies her. Vann, her other son, comes up from Atlanta to do some investigating on his own. Meanwhile, Roy blames Detective Lopez for the delays and misunderstandings, and Lopez grows increasingly testy when Roy points out that someone ran up thousands of dollars on Troy’s American Express card—after his death. Looks like a credit-card scam turned into murder. Back at the apartment, Nola just knows that Cordelia is going to be after Troy’s insurance money, not to mention Meika’s Social Security check. Finally, a witness comes forth with a description of a tall man in black leather. The trail will take a few twists and turns before the perps are identified at last.
Solidly written, earnest suspense that isn’t exactly suspenseful, though the family is well-drawn and convincing. Third-novelist Mallette also wrote Shades of Jade (2001).